Hezbollah TV vows to air after satellite provider drops it

Al-Manar's GM: station "will not be silenced by any arbitrary or unjust decision no matter who issues it."


BEIRUT (AP) -- Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station vowed on Thursday to continue broadcasting after it was abruptly dropped by one of the Middle East's main satellite operators.

The move by Saudi Arabia-hosted ArabSat earlier this month reflects rising tension between Shiite Muslim Hezbollah and its main backer Iran with Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia. The two back opposing sides in the wars in Yemen and Syria.

In Syria, Saudi Arabia is a main supporter of insurgent groups trying to remove President Bashar Assad from power while Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to back the leader. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia views Houthi rebels as a proxy of archrival Iran, and has led a military coalition against the Houthis since March.

Al-Manar's General Manager Ibrahim Farhat told scores of politicians, journalists and other figures attending a gathering in support of the station Thursday that Al-Manar "will not be silenced by any arbitrary or unjust decision no matter who issues it."

Al-Manar presenter Mohammed Shirri told The Associated Press: "This is a political decision. The decision is against freedom and Lebanese sovereignty."

The move to drop Al-Manar came a month after ArabSat stopped broadcasting Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that is seen by many as pro-Iranian.

ArabSat said in a statement Wednesday that it dropped the two stations because they violated their contracts, which ban broadcasting material that could cause sectarian strife as well as "insulting and slandering political and religious figures."

Al-Manar said ArabSat stopped broadcasting it after a participant on a live talk show in April criticized Saudi King Salman.

Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah, who heads Parliament's media committee, said action will be taken against ArabSat. He did not elaborate.

Al-Manar is still being aired by the other main Arab satellite operator, Egypt-owned NileSat.